The Distance Project 18

Social Distancing Project 154In the church hall at Little Horwood, the sub-postmaster from Deanshanger provides a post office service for a few hours, one day a week. The table helps to ensure customers stay back, and provides a place for them to use the card reader while still keeping their distance.

Carrying on With the New Normal

Here’s a few Distance Project photos from a month or two ago that I haven’t shown you before. The first two are from Little Horwood, and the others are from Winslow. I’ve shown you photos from both places before, but these were all taken on a later date.

As the lockdown rules change, behaviour has changed. As I wrote this, I heard on the radio that the government are considering stricter lockdown rules. They say they want to prevent a second wave.

Just when I thought I would soon be running out of things to photograph for this project, it looks like there will be more to come. I didn’t think the pandemic would last this long, and I’d rather photograph something else now. But I have to carry on.

My other photos from the Distance Project can all be found here. The project is to photograph what people are doing differently under lockdown.

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The Distance Project 17

Social Distancing Project 145There’s a moment between the end of the first part of the ceremony and the procession down to the lake, where nothing seems to happen. They are just getting organised, but with only 18 lanterns instead of 200, they’ll soon be on their way.

Lights on the Water.

The Hiroshima Day ceremony at the Peace Pagoda, by Willen Lake in Milton Keynes was officially cancelled this year. I expected a small invite only ceremony of a similar scale to the Pagoda Ceremony, back in June; there had been just six there.

But I was wrong.

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The Distance Project 16

Social Distancing Project 137I followed some of the temple folk up to the pagoda. In any other year I would have expected at least a hundred people. Officially, there were just ten.


The Day the Bomb Dropped

The 6th of August is a day burned into memory. On that day in 1945, the first atomic bomb used in war was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan.

That’s why on the 6th of August every year there’s a ceremony at the Peace Pagoda in Milton Keynes, to commemorate the victims of that day. Volunteers at the Buddhist temple call it the Lantern Ceremony.

After prayers and chanting, peace lanterns are carried down to the lake and floated out across the water as the sun sets behind the pagoda. The light in each lantern is meant to, aided by prayer, guide the souls of victims in the right direction, in order to ease their suffering.

Buddhism is a most compassionate religion.

Six weeks earlier, I’d gone, for the Distance Project, to see what would happen on the day of the long planned 40th Peace Pagoda Ceremony. I was surprised and pleased to find a very small, invite only ceremony, although the event had been officially cancelled because of the lockdown. It was all they could do.

I expected a similar scene when I went to the Lantern Ceremony and that’s what I found, but a few more people had turned up to the pagoda on the off-chance, too. Still, there were nowhere near as many there as usual. All around were other groups and small gatherings doing their own thing; exercising or picnicing in the public park.

This week I’m just showing you the first part of the ceremony, up at the Peace Pagoda. I’ll show you the second part of the ceremony down at the lake, next week.

All the posts from the Distance Project can be found here. The project is to photograph what people are doing differently under lockdown.


Social Distancing Project 138Setting up was still going on. Chairs were well spread out. I think that’s a tai chi group in the background.

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The Distance Project 15

Social Distancing Project 127If the ceremony had gone ahead as planned, this scene would have been packed with hundreds of people. The low platform, recently rebuilt for the ceremony, would have been filled with Buddhist monks and nuns, some from Japan or other countries with peace pagodas.
The man beyond the platform wearing dark trousers and a white shirt is from the Parks Trust; it’s their land. Like me, he was there to observe, but not participate. Anyone else you can see here is just a passer by.

The Peace Pagoda Ceremony

It’s been forty years since the Peace Pagoda in Milton Keynes was finished. This year’s ceremony, the 40th at Willen, was planned to be an important milestone event. Hundreds of people from all over the world would attend and I was looking forward to it.

But the lockdown put paid to that idea. Officially, there was to be no ceremony at all this year. But I turned up to take photographs anyway, to see if anything would happen.

I thought I would perhaps see a monk or a nun chanting for a few minutes, or I would be sat there all afternoon on my own. Either way, I would take photos, if only to record an absence.

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Bowing to the Buddha

Bowing to the Buddha

The Revd. Nagahama (first right) bows to the Buddha at a Peace Pagoda ceremony in Milton Keynes. He came from Japan for the ceremony.

The Monday Photo

Ten years ago I was proud to be the official photographer for the 30th Peace Pagoda ceremony in Milton Keynes. Monks and nuns of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order came from all over the world, to this most important event at their temple by Willen lake.

They are the ones in white and saffron yellow. Monks or nuns from other Buddhist orders wear different colours.

It was a great day but a long one. Photographing an event like this meant I was on duty nearly all day long, then in the days following were hours of editing and processing.

I think I took about 700 photos that day, but in the end I gave the temple 366 photos, all on CDs and ready to print.

A few weeks later, one of the nuns went up to Boots the chemist in Central Milton Keynes with the CDs and had hundreds of prints made, to send out to anybody the temple knew that had been there on the day. In those quantities the prints cost pennies each.

I believe the Revd. Nagahama received a full set, as the Milton Keynes temple and Pagoda were under his control back then; they still are.

Everyone else would be sent any photos they appeared in, plus maybe a few general shots. I took the photos for over forty temple events and enjoyed it, though in the end I felt it was time I had a break.

Why did I choose this photo for today? Because the long awaited 40th Pagoda Ceremony should have been yesterday.

Oh well. Maybe next year I can take the ceremony photos again; it’s bound to be a great event.

Stony is Quiet Tonight

Simply Floyd front manMartin of Simply Floyd, at the Cock Hotel.

By today, I would usually expect to be very tired. I would have been out every night since Saturday to see live music, at Stony Stratford’s annual Stony Live event.

I miss it. I’ve been out to Stony Stratford in the evenings, to take photos of all the closed up pubs for my Distance Project, which covers the changes the lockdown has made to our lives. 

The town, usually busy with live music fans at this time of year, was strangely quiet. So here, just to help keep you going until next year, are some unpublished photos from 2019. There's also a couple of shots from the Folk on the Green event, also in Stony Stratford in June.

Stony Live will be back next year.

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